A beet eased up from the ground like a belly floating in a swimming pool. I have bruises from the full-up watering can banging at my calves all summer vacation and a mad sore heart from seeing him look at the tiled hallway floor when he saw me scrambling up suntan and grinning. I tug the beet from the grey dirt and then I spy and pull three others. The soil shakes loose in a shower, my arms full of coarse, bug-holy greens. Inside, I guess at what to do. Rinse the beets in the deep metal sink and they lose their dark sleeping color and wake up red. Hack off the stems and the long leggy roots and the thing bleeds bright as a buzzing neon sign shouting OPEN OPEN OPEN. My mouth catches the blinking open beet before I know it, the red-pink color like ditch poppies blooming. Tonight is the homecoming dance and I want to stain my lips, flush my cheeks with beet juice blood in my yellow dress and ponytail. Let him talk behind his hands in his cotton church clothes when he spies me carrying a bouquet armful of bright beetroot, seeping its grown smell, shedding its downy root hairs. I’ll be smeared with harvest sweat, swatting biting bugs that hatched underground.
LINDSEY GATES-MARKEL (lindseygatesmarkel.com) is a lifelong ham born and raised in the Midwest. Her work has previously appeared in a number of cool spots including Necessary Fiction, WhiskeyPaper, and Smokelong Quarterly.